Like an oyster, Bahrain’s rough exterior takes some prising open, but it is worth the effort. From the excellent National Museum in Manama to the extraordinary burial mounds at Sar, there are many fine sites to visit.
The country has long been defined by its relationship with water. Meaning ‘Two Seas’ in Arabic, Bahrain's focus is not the island’s minimal land mass, but the shallow waters that lap its shores. The sweet-water springs that bubble offshore helped bring about 4000 years of settlement, the layers of which are exposed in rich archaeological sites around the island. The springs also encouraged lustrous pearls – the trade that helped to build the island’s early fortunes.
Much of Manama's modern wealth, illustrated in high-profile building projects, rises proudly from land 'reclaimed' from the sea. With the projected effects of global warming, however, the sea may yet have the last laugh.